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How Cirque du Soleil Works


Costumes
The Old Birds
The Old Birds
Photo courtesy Al Seib

Costuming and makeup design is an important element in all Cirque shows. The costume designer's goal is to design a costume that creates a character and allows the cast member to perform unconstrained, all while blending aesthetic elements and safety concerns.

Dominique Lemieux has been the costume designer for many Cirque du Soleil shows, including Alegria. Lemieux works with the over 300 artisans and 80 designers at Cirque du Soleil's IHQ to design, produce and maintain all the costumes for Alegria and Cirque du Soleil's other shows. In Alegria, Lemieux used costumes to illustrate the contrast and power struggle between "youth" and "the old guard." For example, the costumes worn by the White Angels and the Old Bird characters illustrate the contrast between young and old.

Here's how Cirque du Soleil describes the White Angels and the Old Bird characters:

"The White Angels are the graceful guardians of Alegría. Agile, confident and daring, the angels are the youth of tomorrow. Their bearing is regal, their arms - like wings - are always poised elegantly at their sides. Dressed all in white, with breastplates of woven gold and their noses painted red, the Angels support one another as they take turns tumbling through the air on the Russian Bars. The nostalgic Old Birds observe the goings on as though they were still young and beautiful and the future was still theirs. They admire their reflections in mirror-less frames but are only empty shells, shadows of their former selves. They are the old aristocracy, still convinced of their power and beauty. But they are twisted, deformed and ugly. They wear fanciful hats and hide behind their flamboyant costumes in rich tones of mauve, green and gold, covered with lace, jewels and embroidery." Act Info Courtesy - Cirque du Soleil

Lemieux and the Cirque costume design team spun a little Cirque magic to create simple white lace costumes for the Angels and garish, flamboyant costumes and masks for the Old Birds. Since the White Angels act takes place on the Russian bars, safety and range of motion were major considerations in the design of their light but solid costumes. Using a special Cirque-designed tool, the costume designers made the White Angel costumes from a special lace incorporating fishing line. The modified lace is strong enough to support 1,000 pounds of pressure.

 

The White Angels
The White Angels

The strong man outfit in Alegria is also highly innovative. It incorporates unobtrusive support mechanisms that allow the performer to safely lift the heavy weights required for the act. The costumes for Alegria's storytellers, the White and Black Singers, are dresses outfitted with hoops and a steel blade typically used for unblocking toilets.

The White Singer
The White Singer
Photo courtesy Al Seib